Kidd-Gilchrist's defense helps Kentucky rally past Mississippi State

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 21, 2012 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

— The largest halftime deficit in more than a year in a game played under "white-out" conditions could not prevent No. 1 Kentucky from seeing its way to victory Tuesday night.

Led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, UK rallied to beat Mississippi State 73-64.

The Cats trailed by 13 at halftime.

"We should have been down 20 the way we played and the way they played," UK Coach John Calipari said. "I told them at halftime, 'This isn't all bad. Let's show what we're made of.' "

Then Calipari added, facetiously, "Everybody rooting for us. Let's make them angry."

With Kidd-Gilchrist stifling Dee Bost, UK rode a 15-2 run down the stretch to its 27th victory in 28 games.

Bost, who torched UK for 16 first-half points, made only one of six second-half shots and finished with 21. But his impact diminished greatly as the Cats chipped away.

"I was thinking of starting the game that way," Calipari said of Kidd-Gilchrist on Bost. "Obviously, I made a mistake not starting that way. ... Dee carried them."

Kentucky, which clinched at least a share of the Southeastern Conference championship (13-0), caught a break when State's Rodney Hood sprained a knee late in the half.

Gone went a three-point shooter and, State Coach Rick Stansbury added, a defender to put on Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward. Instead, the smaller Brian Bryant took the role.

"Huge, huge, huge blow," Stansbury said. "... With our lack of depth, it's huge for us. Now we got to play a guy who can't physically guard Gilchrist."

Mississippi State fell to 19-9 overall and 6-7 in the SEC.

Kidd-Gilchrist led UK with 18 points. Anthony Davis added 13. Darius Miller, who didn't score until less than eight minutes remained, added 12. His points were a big part of a 20-4 Kentucky run to finish the game.

"Darius Miller is the fiber that holds that whole team together," Stansbury said. "... He's the guy they look to when the game gets out of line."

A sellout crowd, largely dressed in white, rocked the Humphrey Coliseum in the first half, then quietly exited in the final minute.

Kentucky trailed 41-28 at halftime. Not only did that mark UK's largest halftime deficit of the season, but it was their biggest since falling behind Connecticut 50-29 on Maui last season.

Until this game, the Cats had not trailed by double digits all season, the largest previous deficit being 34-25 against North Carolina.

Yet State jumped ahead 12-2 at the 14:42 mark. Thereafter, Kentucky trailed by double digits for all but 5:57 the rest of the half. The deficit grew to as much as 13 points when Bost hit one of his two first-half three-pointers with 4:26 left.

Another three-pointer, this time by Jalen Steele, set the halftime score with 41.8 seconds left. State, which made only five of 22 three-pointers in last weekend's loss at Auburn, hit six of 11 in the first half. Bost, who made only two of nine shots at Auburn, had 16 first-half points.

Overall, the Bulldogs shot a healthy 48.3 percent (14-for-29) while UK struggled. Settling for too many perimeter jumpers, the Cats made one of their first 11 shots in falling behind from the start. UK made just five of its first 18 shots en route to a 38.7 percent shooting half.

A halftime deficit was something new for Kentucky, which led at the half in its last nine games, six times by 12 or more points.

State had won 17 of 19 games in which it led at halftime this season.

With Kidd-Gilchrist guarding Bost, Kentucky's defense led a rally to open the second half. State scored only one basket in the first four minutes.

Meanwhile, UK chipped away, closing within four, 43-39, on two Davis free throws with 16:04 left. That marked the smallest UK deficit since trailing 5-2.

A technical foul on Davis for hanging on the rim after a steal and a driving dunk stalled Kentucky's rally momentarily.

Bost made both technical free throws to give State a 47-41 lead with 13:51 left.

UK closed to within two, 55-53 with just more than seven minutes to go. But Moultrie slammed home a putback, then stared at Terrence Jones.

After Lamb missed a quick-trigger three, Bost hit a three-pointer to put State ahead 60-53, prompting a UK timeout with 6:27 left. It was Bost's first basket of the second half.

Miller, who did not score in the game's first 32 minutes, scored nine points in less than three minutes to bring the Cats within one, 62-61.

Kentucky took its first lead at the 4:06 mark. Kidd-Gilchrist rebounded his own miss and scored to put the Cats ahead 63-62.

Dontae' Jones

The last time Mississippi State beat No. 1 Kentcuky came in the 1996 SEC Tournament. The star of that game, Dontae' Jones, was in Humphrey Coliseum. It was his first State home game since his college playing career.

Jones, who scored 28 points in that victory over No. 1 UK in the SEC Tournament, has been playing overseas. Now 36, he hopes to finish work on a college degree and become a coach.

Record interest

State basketball publicist Gregg Ellis said that he issued a record number of credentials for reporters. More than 50.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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